How Marc Maron became the entertainment industry’s (not-so) secret weapon


Marc Maron stars in the new Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect.” Courtesy: MGM


If Marc Maron is in the movie, the experience can’t be all bad. But with this entertainer, pretty much anywhere he shows up, good times will follow. He’s versatile like good pizza dough; no matter how you stretch it or bake it, the taste is there.

That much was true this week when he showed up halfway into the underwhelming Aretha Franklin biopic, “Respect,” as Jerry Wexler, the singer’s longtime music associate. Maron, who comes from a Jewish family originally from Poland and Ukraine, enlivens the movie by bringing some energy and witty spirit to the script making everything work better. If you take away his performance, there are a few less ounces of authenticity to the picture.

While the 57-year-old is well known for his standup comedy and podcast, he can really give a good performance, too. One that doesn’t include all the answers at first yet trickles away as the running time of the movie ages. Maron doesn’t need a ton of screen time either. Take Todd Phillips’ “Joker” for example — where he plays late-night host Robert De Niro’s producer.

Late in that film, Maron’s Gene Ufrand doesn’t like Joaquin Phoenix’s unpredictable prankster the second he lays eyes on him. There’s tension in the scene due to the restlessness he brings to the table. Who can forget Maron’s infuriated promoter in Cameron Crowe’s classic film, “Almost Famous?” Hilarious, heartbreaking, and memorable with fewer minutes than his castmates.

But movies are only the shore of Maron’s oceanic effect on Hollywood and the entertainment industry. There’s the IFC show, simply titled “Maron.” He starred in a Netflix Original series called “GLOW” for three years. “The Marc Maron Show” graced Los Angeles drivers on their AM radios with a less-than-usual potency of Maron. In other words, it was like a diet soda version of his appeal. Cool if short-lasting. Like wondering what Will McAvoy was like as a boring conservative before Aaron Sorkin’s “Newsroom” pilot.

“WTF with Marc Maron” still sits as his crown jewel. The podcast has been chugging along since 2009 and flourishing in recent years. There are currently over 1,200 episodes of the hour-long show, which are recorded in Maron’s home, aka his “cat ranch.” And speaking of his infamous role in Crowe’s “Famous,” the “lock the gates!” sound clip plays at the end of each podcast. No matter what happens, this will always be Maron’s baby.

My only hope is the guy keeps making sweet little indie films like “Sword of Trust.” In the 2019 film, Maron’s Mel is the owner of a pawn shop that two ladies visit with an antique sword that is supposedly proof that the South won the Civil War. It starts slow but gains steam due to the understated yet sure chemistry between the cast, turned into a real winner. Maron was the star and the head of that nuanced delight’s engine.

But the sweetness of that movie has a bittersweet edge. The co-writer and director, Lynne Shelton, Maron’s wife, passed away a little more than a year after its release. She became ill and found out at the hospital that somehow, without previous detection or symptoms, that she had a form of leukemia. She passed away at the hospital just a few days later. Maron’s character in “Sword of Trust” felt and sounded like him in real life, and he performed all the original acoustic music for the film.

Those are the kind of projects-movie, television show, or play-that bring you closer to the person playing the role, partly due to it being written by the love of his life and him unable to leave out certain idiosyncrasies. But method acting, and all its good and ugly qualities and side effects, brings out the best in a performer.

If he can do anything, Marc Maron can do… just about everything. Comedian. Podcast host. Movie star. Writer. Music writer and performer. Television show star. Actor. Creator.

He first took the stage in 1987 to tell jokes. 34 years later, Maron’s talent is not-so secret.